We talk to fleet managers from all across North America on a daily basis. They care about a lot of things, but managing their routes and drivers for maximum efficiencies seems to come out at the top of their list of concerns most consistently. With cost pressures increasing, they’re constantly tasked to get more efficiencies and productivity from their drivers and trucks to improve operating margins, meet environmental targets and keep customers happy.
Beyond route optimization software, fleet managers need to ensure practical, ‘on-the-street’ route management to ensure that drivers are executing their routes and activities according to plan.
What is route management?
Route management is the governing practice of achieving the best efficiencies from fleet operations. Route management can encompass route optimization software as part of an overall solution. However, getting the best performance from trucks and drivers requires an understanding of how to make efficiencies work at the street level. Route management takes the theory of optimizing route efficiencies and combines that with the real-time fleet tracking and turn-by-turn driver direction to ensure that vehicles actually use those routes that minimize the distance, the amount of fuel used, or the amount of time required to fulfil their duties. Route management also includes the monitoring of driver behaviour and truck activity to ensure safe driving practices.
What are the potential savings/benefits?
Route and fleet management solutions are proven to reduce fuel consumption with more efficient routing and by the monitoring of vehicles and drivers. The savings can be huge. ABI Research cites such benefits as over 12% increase in service profitability, 13% improvement in vehicle utilization, and nearly 15% decrease in travel time with fleet and route management solutions. In addition, the benefits of improved fleet safety practices can be significant.
What should a route management solution entail?
Effective and complete route management solutions should consider the following capabilities:
1) Route Optimization
Route optimization software can typically calculate the most efficient means of servicing a list of addresses. It uses geographic information system-based (GIS) modelling software for high-density routing and analytics. It can also balance multiple data inputs such as route times and service days to model optimized route travel time.
2) Fleet monitoring
Fleet monitoring solutions track drivers with the precise geo-coding (GPS) of all data and events, determine how vehicles are being handled, identify which drivers generated alarms and where these were generated, monitor driver speeds in relation to speed limits, and plot locations of alarm occurrences. Monitoring and understanding driver behaviour supports better training to influence safer and more efficient driving habits.
3) Fleet mapping
Fleet mapping typically creates a real-time map view of your vehicles’ history of reported positions relative to towns, cities, highways, and streets. This allows you to select from a number of layers, which determine the level of detail and plot the vehicle’s position according to reported events. Using fleet mapping, you can reconstruct the route taken by a driver on any given day, verify any deviations or unscheduled side trips, and view alarm criteria, such as exceeding a specified speed or excessive idling—with all information presented on a map.
4) Real-time positioning
Real-time positioning presents a map view of your vehicles’ current positions, letting you know which driver is closest to a new pickup assignment, who can take the work a driver cannot complete, and the driver’s proximity to a customer location.
5) Driver direction
Driver direction automatically provides driving directions to the truck’s next stop based on run sheet data – no driver input should be required. It further provides a graphical view of the calls to the driver, and will automatically re-calculate the route when a driver selects an out-of-sequence manual stop.
6) Reports & alerts
Fleet and driver statistics can provide a new level of insight into your fleet’s operational efficiency and assist in identifying those areas where you can reduce costs or improve productivity. Typically, reports are produced according to your specific settings and configuration, allowing you to work with the most relevant and actionable information possible. A flexible report center will log the time and location for breaks, customer stops, refuelling and more, and it will report the exact route each vehicle took for any day.
Selecting a route management solutions provider
When selecting a route management vendor, do your homework. Consider the following:
- Expertise – Make sure your vendor specializes in your industry. They need to understand your business and your requirements. Avoid cookie-cutter solutions.
- Install-base – A good vendor should have a current and sizeable installed base of vehicles.
- Technology – Ask potential vendors how much they have invested in R&D. Technologies evolve constantly, and you need to make sure that your vendor invests heavily to stay at the forefront.
- Financials – Your vendor needs to be financially viable. Ask for an independent assessment of their commercial status.
- Customer references – A vendor’s customers are the best source of insight. Ask to speak to their customers about their experiences with the solution.
- ROI – A good vendor should be able to show you the path to ROI in hard numbers.
Remember, when you select a route management solution and vendor, they effectively become a partner in your business’ success. A relationship built on trust, credibility and honest communications will set the course for successful outcomes.